Indian cricket team banks on pace depth for South Africa turnaround | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Indian cricket team banks on pace depth for South Africa turnaround

Building depth in the pace bowling department gives Indian cricket team great confidence going up against South Africa, where they have not won a Test series.

cricket Updated: Jan 01, 2018 14:51 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Indian cricket team pacers Mohammed Shami (2L) Bhuvneshwar Kumar (L) and Umesh Yadav will have a key role to
Indian cricket team pacers Mohammed Shami (2L) Bhuvneshwar Kumar (L) and Umesh Yadav will have a key role to (AFP)

The quality India boast in their bowling lineup currently means you don’t see the same faces across all formats. India, by virtue of the Indian Premier League, have reached a stage where Yuzvendra Chahal and Jasprit Bumrah spearhead the spin and pace bowling departments in T20Is and even in ODIs at times.

That gives Virat Kohli the luxury to weave his Test strategy around the specialists. In the pace department, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar seem to be the top picks. With seaming conditions on offer, not just in South Africa but also in England, India’s chances of victory hinge largely on how this trio bowls in the two countries.

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Shami’s ability to crank up pace and the recent acquisition of a mean bouncer makes him an all-round threat. Kohli’s liking for raw pace has been sufficiently addressed by Umesh Yadav. Bhuvneshwar rounds it off with impeccable control, and just the right amount of swing makes his medium pace unplayable at times.

Though not pronounced, India are slowly progressing towards having different cores for different formats. Take for example Shami’s case. Over four years, he has played 50 ODIs, three of them coming in the two years since the 2015 World Cup. His dodgy knees make him susceptible to breaking down, which to a great extent explains why he has hardly played any match -- barring Tests -- in India, where the outfields are harder compared to England or South Africa.


Armed with a great out swinger, Umesh provides the edge in terms of pace, but a few niggles have kept him in rehab at the National Cricket Academy of late. Vidarbha coach and Umesh’s long-time mentor, Subroto Banerjee, however said he is fully fit and should get more opportunity to bowl. “At this age, he should bowl as much as possible. What is the point in playing just seven or eight Tests per year when he is clearly fit to play more?” the former India pacer told Hindustan Times before the Ranji Trophy final in Indore.

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“Umesh has become more disciplined. Playing the Ranji Trophy was a way to maintain match practice but all along the way he was working with me on getting the lengths right for the South Africa series. He understands its importance,” said Banerjee. Umesh played in the semi-final, where Vidarbha upstaged Karnataka, before leaving for South Africa.


Bhuvneshwar’s selection often hinges on the conditions, but he vindicates selection every time. Like in the Kolkata Test against Sri Lanka where the trio bowled together for only the second time ever.

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Together, they accounted for all the seven second-innings wickets India took in a thrilling draw on a spicy Eden Gardens pitch, with Bhuvneshwar the pick of the bowlers with eight wickets in the match. Victories at the Lord’s (2014) and St Lucia (2016) too wouldn’t have been possible without him.

Umesh and Bhuvneshwar are yet to play in South Africa, but there are enough indications that they can hunt in a pack. They might possess different skill sets but Bhuvneshwar said they were always learning from each other. “If I pick something from Umesh or Ishant or Shami, that’s reverse swing while they can pick swing from me. So that definitely helps us to prepare better,” said Bhuvneshwar on Sunday.